American duo BlakLight is one of the best new synthpop bands in the world. They made their debut last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with the perfect pandemic-era song, “Isolation.” The track soon appeared on their incredible first album, Music in a Time of Uncertainty, which I named one of the best albums of 2020.
BlakLight have quickly proven themselves to be not just skillful songwriters but fast-paced ones as well. They’ve already completed their second album, Into the Void, which is out today. And rumor has it album three is already in the pipeline.
On the eve of their second album’s release, I talked to the members of BlakLight, vocalist Brian Belknap and composer Adam Collier, about making music during a pandemic, how their sound is evolving, and what it’s like being part of a global synthpop community.
For people who are new to BlakLight, can you introduce yourselves and tell us how the project got started?
Adam Collier: Hello, Adam here. I create the backsplash for Brian’s incredible lyrics and vocals. I had been in another project for several years, and it was time to move on so I started a project with the idea of using different vocalists.
I immediately clicked with what Brian sent back and continued to send him more songs. It was very natural to become a duo.
Brian Belknap: This is Brian Belknap (or sometimes just Brian B) and I’m the voice of BlakLight. Adam and I met via Facebook Messenger back in 2019. My other band, Mind Machine, was putting together a remix album and I reached out to him to remix our track “Hundred Thousand Million” after hearing “Couldn’t We” by his other band, MDA. He did a fantastic job, of course, and that was it.
Then towards the end of that year, he reached out to me asking if I had any interest in collaborating on a song for a project he was working on which was to feature different vocalists. I jumped at the chance but told him that I hadn’t written lyrics since I was a teenager (hint, I’m far from one now), and I’ve never written a vocal melody in my life. Thankfully he was up for it and sent me the first track, “Under The BlakLight,” in February 2020, and BlakLight was born shortly after.
Was there a particular moment when you realized the two of you had something special?
Adam: I knew right when I heard Brian sing “Under the BlakLight,” which is on our first album. A stream of songs came to me after that.
Brian: For me, it was when Adam sent over a second track, “This Lonely Night.” That’s when I knew he liked what I did enough to send me another one.
Your first album was recorded during the first year of the pandemic and captured the feelings many of us experienced during that time. How did you approach the second album, and what feelings did you want to convey this time?
Adam: Towards the end of the first year of the pandemic, there was a clear division of sides but no closer to an end. We were still moving into nothingness with no clear answers.
With this album, it still captures the feelings of what many of us experience, but on a more personal and psychological level.
Brian: Adam had sent me just about every demo for this album within a few weeks of Music in a Time of Uncertainty being released. I took a few months to re-charge and then got to work at the beginning of 2021.
Since these songs were written not too far off from the first album, we weren’t really in a much different place. That being said, a song like “Vampires” could only have been written when it was, back in June of this year.
On this album, there are nightmares, vampires, feelings of paranoia. Would you say it’s a darker album?
Adam: I wouldn’t say that it is a darker album but heavier. Brian has really delivered some lyrics and melodies that have weight to them. The titles for the songs came from a more personal space for me. There were two that I was unsure of, and Brian changed those without me telling him which ones—they became “World” and “Crack.” Since day one, we have been in sync like that.
Brian: Nearly every lyric I’ve written has been inspired by a combination of the music Adam sends and the titles of the demos. He sent me tracks titled “Nightmares,” “Vampires,” and “Paranoid.” I could have changed them, but I like the constraints of working within the confines of an idea. It gives me a launchpad to get the ideas flowing.
I do try to keep a glimmer of hope in most of my lyrics, even though it may often be buried within a single phrase or two. I wouldn’t say that this album is darker, but it’s more claustrophobic.
You’ve also added guitars from guitarist Pano Coromelas, which adds a new element to the BlakLight sound. How did that come about and what was that experience like?
Adam: I have always admired artists that change their sound up a bit from album to album. It’s all about evolving and keeping things fresh for our listeners. The guitars glued the songs together and filled out space.
Brian: Like Adam, I also am drawn to artists who like to keep pushing forward. Adam had worked with Pano Coromelas on his other projects, and everything he’s sent us has fit perfectly. We do know there are some folks out there who are synth purists, but we hope that won’t deter them from the album.
BlakLight has been popping up on a lot of remixes, Brian did vocals for Beyond Border, and the new album has guest vocals from Gene Serene from the Frixion and Magnus from MORE. Are you guys enjoying all the collaborations?
Adam: I’m always up to do a remix. Gives me a chance to think outside of the box. It was Brian’s idea to have Gene and Magnus onboard. I am so glad that he did. All of their vocals blend so well together and we are so honored to have them on this album.
Brian: Beyond Border reached out to me completely out of the blue. “What Makes the World Go Round” is such a fantastic song, and they wanted another voice to create a higher melody to the main vocal. And if you listen carefully, you can hear me on our remixes for Denial Waits and Nostalgia Deathstar, and on one other that’s not yet been announced.
I’ve wanted to do something with Magnus for quite some time, as he’s one of my favorite vocalists. When I was working on “World,” in my head, I could hear him singing with me, so I asked, and he said yes.
With “Vampires,” that one felt like it needed a beautiful soothing vocal and I thought of Gene. It’s great fun collaborating with these amazing artists and getting to know them and becoming part of a community.
You’re about to do your first ever live show in November. How are you feeling?
Adam: Excited. I love being on stage. I go into another world once the music starts. I think that we have a great group of songs that will carry over to the live setting well.
Brian: Adam is a pro on the stage. I, however, have not sung live in public in over thirty years. Thankfully, I think I’m a better singer now and I’ve certainly got more confidence. That being said, I’m both incredibly nervous and excited, but really looking forward to playing with our friends Vain Machine. And hopefully, there will be more shows sooner than later.
Is it true you’ve already written enough songs for a third album?
Adam: Almost, almost. I have so many emotions inside and I am not the best communicator, so I let them out in musical form. Ideas are already flowing for the fourth album. Nothing laid down yet though. Very excited about our musical future.
Brian: We’re nearly there. Adam has already sent me six songs for the next album, plus we’ve got three tracks from compilations that we don’t want to be orphaned, “Blinded by the Sun,” “So Gone” and a new one from the forthcoming Darkness Calling ‘You Are Still Not Alone’ compilation called “A Stranger Calls.” I wouldn’t be surprised if he sends me another before this is published!